Researchers call for a whole landscape approach and challenge forest concept in REDD

By Elizabeth Kahurani, ASB Communications Officer

Indonesia is home to the third largest area of tropical forest in the world and is seen to be the leader in carbon emissions due to high deforestation rates. The Government of Indonesia has clearly demonstrated commitment and leadership to reduce emissions from forests through its national Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) policy. However, more needs to be done as new evidence from the Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins shows that the highest risk for loss of woody vegetation and associated carbon emissions is posed by areas which are actually outside areas defined as forests. This evidence calls for a whole landscape approach that is all inclusive. To demonstrate how crucial this is, ASB scientists introduce the concept of time limit for a Business as Usual Scenario and show how forest and non-forest time limit interact.

Reducing emissions from deforestation, inside and outside the 'forest': ASB PolicyBrief 16Reducing emissions from deforestation, inside and outside the 'forest': ASB PolicyBrief 16

In a new policy brief, scientists based at the World Agroforestry Centre in Bogor, Indonesia and Nairobi, Kenya explain that while two-thirds of the 0.6 Gt (Gigatonnes) of carbon emitted each year is from areas institutionally defined as forests, one-third comes from areas that are outside forests. These are areas that do not fall under the official definition of forest in Indonesia, meaning they are left out in current forest-based mitigation efforts under the REDD umbrella. The researchers found that the time limit on business as usual (i.e. the number of years before the remaining carbon stock completely disappears under the current carbon emission rates) is 73 years for areas inside forests and 32 years for areas outside the forest definition. However, if all institutional forests were fully protected, the non-forest could support the total emissions for only 6.4 years. The researchers point out that areas outside institutional forests need to be accounted for before any net emission reduction from Indonesia through REDD efforts could be claimed.

“Our estimate of the time limit outside institutional forest can help us make the argument that a more inclusive institutional approach is needed to make REDD efforts a success,” explains Meine van Noordwijk, on behalf of the research group. “It cannot be left to forestry institutions alone.”

As a way forward, the researchers are calling for an approach which Reduces Emissions from all Land Uses (REALU) as it will allow for an evaluation of emission reduction needs across the whole landscape. It will also overcome unclear forest definitions and help capture leakage of emissions between sectors.

“A whole-landscape approach can help reduce transaction costs of multiple and overlapping rules with gaps in between,” emphasizes Peter Minang, the Global Coordinator for the ASB Partnership. “It can also ensure that developing countries begin to meet their goals of emission reduction.”

One way in which Indonesia is working towards this is through its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) plan which targets net national emissions from various sectors, including peat lands, agriculture and other land uses outside of the forest. Institutionally, NAMA and REDD+ policy have become strongly linked in Indonesia, a trend that is yet to be picked up internationally. REALU might just provide the right framework to define this by harmonizing rules and institutions to implement these policies.

Download the Policy Brief:

Ekadinata A; van Noordwijk M; Dewi S and Minang P A. 2010. Reducing emissions from deforestation, inside and outside the forest. ASB PolicyBrief 16. ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins, Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.asb.cgiar.org/pdfwebdocs/ASBPB16.pdf

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